Redemption Screenplay Recommendation

This recommendation is a section of a Hollywood Treatment for a feature film.

REDEMPTION is a lyrical and moving tale of struggle, love, loss, transformation and hope. Its starkly gorgeous and remote island setting creates and reinforces the central themes of struggle, family, community and wonder at the beauty of the world, and its rich cast of characters offers numerous gripping interludes that brim with complex interpersonal drama. The book is short, but there is more than enough material here for a satisfying full-length film adaptation. If handled with the same care and grace as the novel, a film could be highly successful.

SKU-000921572_COVER.indd

The novel’s period and setting deftly capture a rural way of life that is rapidly vanishing from the western world; one ever present theme is that of economic hardship and encroaching industrialization versus the wild, natural beauty of the islands. If budget restrictions are required, a contemporary version of the story would not require major changes so long as those elements are carefully preserved. However, an adaptation would be best served by maintaining the mid-century trappings, which lend authenticity and the nostalgic mystique of a childhood forever lost.

The story centers on and is always connected to Callum Mor, but he is surrounded and influenced by a fantastic cast of family and fellow islanders. They provide a deep well of material; their conflicts and intrigues move the plot forward and offer a vast array of powerfully emotional individual moments. The story arcs of Andrew, Annie, Moira, Donald, Miss MacDougall, Brett and Catriona offer particularly beautiful and interesting counterpoints to one another and to Callum Mor. The characters’ hopes, desires and difficulties intermingle in a sad and realistic tapestry of human existence.

The narrative’s tone is generally quiet and introspective in the vein of Jarmusch’s BROKEN FLOWERS, but it is frequently punctuated by storms both literal and metaphorical. These interludes are capable of taking a potential adaptation to the heights of such grand romantic drama as THE ENGLISH PATIENT. Callum Mor and his people face many conflicts throughout the story, from poverty, mental illness, unwanted pregnancy, and battles with nature itself, to sexual assault and violent physical confrontation. A potential adaptation would have no difficulty keeping any prospective audience’s rapt attention on the action at hand, even as the deeper, more subtle messages of compassion and faith carefully unfold. Only the ending, if anything, could benefit from slightly less ambiguity; although the final scene of the villagers erasing their shame by building a home for the Hagens, compelled by Callum Mor’s peaceful faith, is an effective and striking image.

Overall, REDEMPTION would be well-suited to adaptation as a feature film. A film should retain the novel’s relatively complex web of conflicts, personalities and emotional undercurrents. If the book’s strengths are preserved, an adaptation has the potential to be a successful, intimate and intensely moving tale of human tragedy and triumph.

Great review at: http://www.magic-city-news.com/Book_Reviews_20/Martha_Stevens-David_Review_Redemption_by_Ian_Prattis19114.shtml

Jung, Consciousness & Default Position for the Mind

Extract from Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey with His Muse

Front Cover Trailing Sky Six Feathers

I am familiar with Carl Jung’s exploration of consciousness – revealed in The Red Book an account of his personal explorations of consciousness from 1912 to 1930. He was quite amazing in his steadfastness to this process; some would say quite mad and foolish in the ‘midst of his brilliance. I employ a different tactic, as I have the benefit of exposure to the Buddhist teachings on consciousness that Jung did not have access to – though he navigated similar waters. The Red Book records Carl Jung’s exploratory practice of encountering whatever was delivered from his deep unconscious – the good, the bad and the ugly, as Clint Eastwood may well point out! Whatever arose, Jung would engage indiscriminately before writing about the experience and transposing it into art and poetry. The lack of discernment in this practice is where I part company from Jung, though I consider him to be one of the greatest minds in early psychology. I concur that something very significant could emerge from the depths of consciousness to speak directly to the contemporary crises of our times – a very Buddhist notion. Yet Jung’s strategy did not grasp the detailed teachings on consciousness that Thich Nhat Hanh had passed on to me through his talks, retreats and books.

Thay Bowing (2)

These teachings have been verified by Buddhist masters for over two thousand years, as they observed the changes taking place in their consciousness. They observed the same process in the training of their disciples, which further confirmed the validity of their own experience. This would not be a verification process that Western science would necessarily agree with, as examining the mind from a vantage point of an awakened mind is not something that Western science is equipped to do. The strategy I chose was to focus primarily on one aspect of my deep unconscious – the internal feminine face of earth wisdom, brought to my experience through training in the Native American tradition. I certainly shared Jung’s experience of encountering a self-correcting autonomous source of internal energy. A source of guidance that I should say frequently defied my logic and intellect. I also warmed to Jung’s courage when his findings found their way into Joseph Campbell’s creation of The Hero’s Journey. But I disagreed with Carl Jung’s approach and also on his views about the anima and the animus. Jung theorized that men had a female archetype – anima in their unconscious, while women had a male archetype – animus in theirs. In Jung’s view, it was essential to engage with the gender opposite buried in the unconscious. I would like to temper this view with the contention that both archetypes are present in men and women.  The transformation to wholeness for men and women requires engagement and balancing both of these two internal energies. It all depends on what we choose to feed and nurture and just how discerning we are about this.

I chose to concentrate on a particular autonomous source – the feminine face of the Earth Mother – and chose not to focus on the vast range of demonic and unwholesome competitors that lurk in my deep unconscious. The male archetype had been reinforced and ignited throughout the early part of my life – with often disastrous and unbalanced consequences. It was now time to provide a corrective navigation which was much more than the anima archetype proposed by Carl Jung and his followers. I also felt that this primary concentration diluted the energy of other autonomous forces that could be harmful, both to myself and to others.  This preference – I call it a strategy based on discernment – drew on my understanding of Buddhist teachings on consciousness. Here is a simplified view of these teachings.

Consciousness, in these teachings, has many levels. The deepest level is known as store consciousness – and it does exactly what the name implies. It stores everything – all our experiences, the information taken in by our senses, the memories of our ancestors and species. It contains absolutely everything; all possible mental formations, the darkest elements of ignorance, hate and greed as well as the enlightened mind of the Buddha, the Love of Jesus. The seeds of suffering passed on by our parents, inherited from our ancestors – are also stored without discrimination, as seeds of potential. These seeds become reality when we activate them with our thoughts and intentions or allow the triggers from life circumstances to do so. This all lies latent within us, buried, veiled and hidden. It is like the hard drive of a computer, hidden behind the screen, storing all the programs that are downloaded. This primary level of consciousness shapes our lives because we feed off it. In the teachings, store consciousness is considered to be the ground of definition for how our body, mind and environment manifest.

Then there is mind consciousness – our everyday rationality engaging with what it thinks reality is.  The mind consciousness is the apparatus that makes sense of, and orders, the information pouring through the senses. So mind interprets the information coming through the senses – sight, sound, smell, touch, perceptions. However, to complicate matters there is another level of consciousness that is absolutely key for our understanding. In store consciousness, the storage of seeds of potential that have characteristics of suffering, hate, anger, fear, ignorance and shame – the unwholesome seeds – glom together as an energy to form another level of consciousness called Manas. This is a distorting, delusional level of consciousness based on suffering and ignorance.  It corresponds to ego. It seeks to grasp and possess things, power, fame and celebrity, regarding itself as separate whereas the reality is its integration with all other levels of consciousness.

To maintain this sense of separateness, manas props up its importance with the acquisition of more and more “stuff.” This is hidden under false perceptions of reality. Does this sound all too familiar? If not, just turn on the daily news. But here is the kicker – manas regulates mind consciousness. This means that how we interpret the world through our senses takes its cue from a distorting, delusional level of consciousness that runs the mind. Our view of reality is always skewed and off line while manas holds sway over the mind. The energy of manas is fostered by our dysfunctional habits that create suffering. It comes from our cravings, attachments and delusions, which find their form in how we speak, act and think. It is the energy of fear, addiction, hatred and desire and it never shuts up.

This state of suffering and delusional affairs remains in place until mind consciousness decides to do something about it. Mind can choose to switch on the light of mindfulness practice – healing and transforming practices based on meditation. So the mind brings in concentration and insight, making meditation processes a daily and valid option in everyday life.  This is in radical contrast to being run on automatic pilot by manas as the generator. The mind is now choosing which seeds of potential from store consciousness to nurture and bring into awareness. Mind consciousness, instead of being enslaved by manas, now becomes like a fresh memory stick creating new programs and concentrations. It delivers them as downloads to the hard drive of store consciousness.  In other words – re-written programs replace the old worn tracks that only cultivate manas. We dance to a different music. All levels of consciousness are malleable so they can be reshaped by human concentration. Mindfulness is a necessary food for the reshaping. Its application can bring about an end run round manas by changing and defusing the programs and seeds that enabled manas to come into being in the first place. Thanks to this freshness and discerning concentration and insight, we can retrain the mind with every act of meditation. We start to come into alignment with universal energy of a higher order.

Order Book: http://www.ianprattis.com/TrailingSky.html

A Tale of Two Books

I recently offered a talk on my two books published this year – Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey with His Muse and Redemption – beginning with an excerpt from the Blue Ink Review of the first one.

“In this spiritual exploration, a highly educated man becomes a humble seeker, works painstakingly through the events of two fascinating lifetimes, and emerges with a message for humankind.

Prattis, whose childhood was marred by sexual abuse, set out to comprehend his present life through his study of religious beliefs of indigenous peoples. This led him to encounters with contemporary Native American sages who forced him to drop his intellectual approach and accept his lustrous spiritual experiences as real, not dreams or self-induced visions. The merging of the parallel spirit world of Native American religion into his current incarnation put many disparate elements of his life in perspective and facilitated his reunion with Trailing Sky Six Feathers, “the greatest medicine woman the Southwest has ever known.”

Though this fantastic tale leaves room for skepticism, most who read Prattis’ latest work will be swept up in this saga of self-examination, revelation, and indeed, exhilarating global adventure. Prattis writes with erudition, charm and humor, ridiculing his own blunders as much as he praises his teachers. Prattis presents a unique viewpoint hewn from hard-won exploration of traditional wisdom, offering all of us the overarching advice to “awaken spiritually” so that we may “create a stable economy and way of life” on Mother Earth.”

Singing Pebble 2

This book follows my spiritual journey as I travel across the globe throughout the course of two lifetimes. It illuminates issues that will impact the human race for generations. I believe that our culture needs to awaken spiritually in order to ensure survival. The darkness before us does offer an opportunity, a chance to remake ourselves by transforming our minds. Instead of being eaten up by the abyss we can choose to Awaken Spiritually, for that transforms the one thing we can control – our minds.

There are two main characters that open the book in 18th century Arizona – Trailing Sky Six Feathers and Eagle Speaker. When readers encounter Trailing Sky Six Feathers, my Muse from the past, they meet a powerful, relentless woman who transforms my life in reality in the 21st century, not in historical fiction.  Eagle Speaker is her husband and also my transformation vehicle. He dies cradled in her arms in a medicine wheel in the year 1777. As he takes his last breath, Trailing Sky whispers to him:

“I will find you my husband, I will find you.” And she does 231 years later, though not in the manner that a romantic may anticipate!

The story is a bit like Indiana Jones meets the Buddha with a dash of Celestine Prophecy. It shines light on the darkest elements of the human condition, including my own. This challenging journey has me stumbling through the first part of life, then standing strong in my own sovereignty in the latter part. I navigate past and present life experiences from brutal raids on Indian settlements in 18th century Arizona, insane sea voyages off the Scottish Hebrides in the 20th century to surrender to The Muse in the 21st century.

My challenging journey includes shamanic healings of childhood sexual abuse, guru training as well as a near death experience in an ashram in India. Trailing Sky Six Feathers initiates a dream vision in 2008 that caps my slow process of remembering a clear mosaic of experience stretching back in time two hundred and thirty one years. Past life memories collide head on with the present, all thanks to the persistence of Trailing Sky Six Feathers, the Muse who refused to give up. Karma is reversed. The internal battles are over and I begin to live life as a Meditation for Gaia. The relentless shadowing by this engaging Muse brings understanding not only to me, but to anyone engaged in overcoming the darkness of their past.

The other book – Redemption – was a novel I first wrote in 1975.  It was soon forgotten, as back then, I did not know how to get published. The manuscript was rediscovered by accident in 2011. I found it in an old filing cabinet where it was gathering dust. I could scarcely believe it was such a good read. I requested my wife and a couple of friends with critical eyes to read it through, just in case I was dreaming. One friend cried all the way through, the other mused about the film to be made. Modern technology enabled the yellowing typed manuscript to be transformed into a computer-ready document.

Redemption front cover

It required attention ranging from spelling and typos to small additions from my writer’s eye some forty years later, yet stands pristine as when first written. The story is an allegory for the life difficulties I experienced at that time, forty years ago. The surprise for me was how could I have written such a book while in a desperate state of mind? I was a total mess with a failing marriage in the Hebrides, Scotland, and trying to maintain a career at Carleton University in Canada. I was not doing a good job with either. It was also laced with insights that I did not cotton on to until much later.

Presently, almost 15 million adults in North America suffer from some form of depression, enhanced through alcoholism and other mental afflictions.  I believe that the power of inner strength can help such wounded individuals overcome their worldly crutches. It took me a while to come to these realizations and the avenue was through this book I wrote some 40 years ago.  Redemption is in fact an allegory for depression and life difficulties that I once experienced, though I did not realize it at the time. The themes of mental illness and depression are writ large in this book – a turbulent Hero’s Journey to emancipation.

This novel is set in The Hebrides, islands off the northwest coast of Scotland, with startling cycles of maturing and downfall of the main epic character Callum Mor, a gifted child, master mariner, derelict drunk, who eventually gains wisdom from a hard life’s journey. He enters the dark zone of alcoholism and withdraws from society. With only his animals keeping him this side of sanity, he survives in a bleak solitude. Until a family with a small girl seeking refuge from a storm come to his house. Slowly, he edges away from his self-destruction. He saves the girl’s life in a blizzard. At this point, a glimmer of awakening dawns in him, and this sets the stage for the final drama that illuminates the resilience of the human spirit.

Laced with grim humor, the story has nature’s harsh and beautiful rhapsody as the background for tragic human failings. It applies universally to human suffering in a chaotic world. The triumph of human decency provides Redemption rather than giving up. Awakening transforms everything.

 

These books can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Xlibris websites. All Order options are on my website www.ianprattis.com

Christmas Gifts and Consumerist Madness

The Christmas season is upon us, following Thanksgiving and Black Friday. All three occasions provide opportunities for the best and the worst within us to come out and play. It is mostly the worst that emerges – greed, selfishness, consumer madness. With the festive season now going full blast, let us all begin a reassessment that all of us can do.  It is time to move on from being so self-absorbed and distracted. Let us find the opportunities to locate ourselves in something bigger – a cause, respecting the earth, making our thinking better, being kinder and more generous.

DSCN0848

How about examining our habit energies around gift giving and learn to give gifts that really make a difference? Why not begin by participating less in the expected excess of mindless consumerism of Christmas buying? I have taken that small step and no longer buy Christmas gifts. Instead, I present donations and gift certificates in the name of family, grand-children and friends to provide education for a girl in Afghanistan, rebuild forests in Haiti, provide literacy packs and mosquito nets where most needed, support Habitat for Humanity building houses for the destitute and so on. Our gifts then become bigger than our self-absorbed egos and can lead to creating happiness for less fortunate people. My grand-children proudly take their Christmas certificates to school for Show-and-Tell periods. They are very articulate as they play it forward with their class mates and teachers.

This then leads to the greatest gift we can give to ourselves and others at this time of global crises. If you do not realize the crises staring us in the face – Climate Change, anarchy, rise of fascism etc – please wake up! The gift to search for at Christmas is Freedom and it involves stepping firmly onto the Bodhisattva path made clear by the Buddha and other great teachers.

It is time for the Bodhisattva to enter the 21st century as a paradigm and archetype for individual and collective action. This enables us to be rooted in our own sovereignty and deeply transform ourselves and our civilization. We nurture this paradigm by cultivating two aspects that presently lie dormant within us. The first aspect is Interbeing – knowing that we interconnect with everything – the earth, oceans, forests and mountains, all species and most of all – with all people. Interbeing creates harmony and unity and destroys the ego. The second aspect is Non-discrimination, which carries the energy of compassion, and this combination threatens selfishness. Taken together – these buried aspects, once they manifest from within us, open pathways and bridges to build a better world.

How do we do this? We cultivate the energies of transformation – Mindfulness, Concentration and Insight. Always – at every opportunity we bring Interbeing and Non-Discrimination to the forefront of our daily lives. In this way we shape the future of the 21st century as we begin to live differently – here and now. We are not intimidated by present crises. We are certainly shocked and hurt by such circumstances but are in fact much stronger than we think. “Enter the Bodhisattva” is the guiding paradigm for our lives. I allude to Bruce Lee’s classic – Enter the Dragon – which brings the fierceness of the warrior to the fore and the determination of a saint to overcome tragedy and set a new course. It takes practice, skillfulness and creative vision – but we are equal to the task. Nelson Mandela thought so. His 1994 inaugural speech laid out the territory clearly when he opened with:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us….

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Nelson Mandela Photo (2)

Notes on Happiness

“Happiness and suffering are dependent upon your mind, upon your interpretation. They do not come from outside, from others. All of your happiness and all of your suffering are created by you, by your own mind.”

- Kyabje Thubten Zopa Rinpoche

 

Q: WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY/ UNHAPPY?

  1. INVESTIGATE: IS IT A FEELING? OR A STATE OF AWARENESS? ASSOCIATED WITH THINGS OR PEOPLE? DO YOU DEPEND ON SOMEONE ELSE, OR ON A SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT?
  • SUREFIRE RECIPE FOR UNHAPPINESS – A LONG LIST OF ENTITLEMENTS!
  1. ARE YOU CLUELESS ABOUT HAPPINESS? – REALIZE THAT WE EXPERIENCE HAPPINESS WHEN IN HARMONY WITH OUR TRUE NATURE – HOW DO WE GET THERE?
  2. A FEW TIPS:

BE IN HARMONY WITH NATURE’S ECOSYSTEM –  GARDENING, NATURE, TREE HUGGING.

BE ROOTED IN SOMETHING THAT MATTERS.

  • ROOTED IN A COMMUNTTY WHERE YOU MATTER AND OTHERS MATTER TO YOU – SANGHA.
  • CHOOSE FRIENDS WISELY – BUDDHA’S ADVICE – STAY OUT OF TRASH AND GOSSIP.
  • FIND INNER SPIRITUAL STRENGTH.
  • LEARN TO THINK, TALK ABOUT ISSUES AND THEN ACT TO OVERCOME THEM – TAKES WORK.
  • MAKE YOUR THINKING BETTER.
  1. WE ARE THE PROBLEM – CO-DEPENDENT RELATIONSHIP WITH SUFFERING – FEED IT WITH OUR MIND. NEED TO UNDERSTAND THE NATURE OF SUFFERING FIRST OF ALL.

BUDDHA’S FIRST DHARMA TALK INVESTIGATED ALL OF THIS: UNDERSTANDING THE TERRITORY OF SUFFERING; 4 NOBLE TRUTHS; 8 FOLD PATH.

12 TURNINGS OF THE DHARMA WHEEL VERY IMPORTANT – WORK TO BE DONE! ESSENTIAL TO UNDERSTAND THIS TO ATTAIN HAPPINESS.

Buddha Picture

 

  1. FIRST DHARMA TALK – SO MANY OFF-THE-RAILS COMMENTARIES SPECIFYING AN OVERWHELMING EMPHASIS ON SUFFERING.

- SUFFERING ALWAYS IN EVERYTHING. WHAT A DREARY MESSAGE – FROM EARLY BUDDHISM RIGHT UP TO THE PRESENT DAY.

  1. MISSED THE WAVE – NEED A RADICAL TRANSFORMATION TO HONOUR THE BUDDHA:
  • CHANGE EMPHASIS TO HAPPINESS
  • THEN EMPHASIZE NEED TO TRANSFORM SUFFERING

BUDDHA MIND EVOLVES – NEW EYES – STOP THE MOANING AND GROANING ABOUT SUFFERING ALWAYS. WHAT A BORING MESSAGE FOR THE 21ST CENTURY.

  • BUDDHA’S TEACHINGS AS SKILFULL MEANS TO REALIZE “HAPPINESS”.
  • TURNING COMMENTARIES ON THE FIRST DHARMA TALK ON THEIR HEADS.
  • BRING FORTH THE JEWELS OF HARMONY & HAPPINESS AS THE BASIS OF THE BUDDHA’S TEACHINGS.

BUDDHA – TURNING THE WHEEL OF THE DHARMA – 2600 YRS AGO.

LEARN ABOUT BUDDHA’S JOURNEY FROM AWAKENING TO THE FIRST DHARMA TALK.

  1. THICH NHAT HANH’S RECONFIGURATION OF THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS: (THE HEART OF THE BUDDHA’S TEACHING PG 44).
  • WELL BEING IS POSSIBLE (FORMERLY # 3 – CESSATION OF SUFFERING).
  • NOBLE EIGHFOLD PATH THAT LEADS TO WELL BEING (FORMERLY # 4 – WAY OUT OF SUFFERING).
  • SUFFERING (FORMERLY # 1 – THERE IS SUFFERING).
  • CAUSES AND CONDITIONS OF SUFFERING (FORMERLY #2 – ARISING OF SUFFERING).

Thay Bowing (2)

THE FOUR NUTRIMENTS: A LATER SUTRA THAT AROSE OUT OF THE “CAUSES AND CONDITIONS OF SUFFERING” NOBLE TRUTH.

SHARIPUTRA – NOTHING SURVIVES WITHOUT FOOD – SO STOP FEEDING YOUR DEMONS!

 EDIBLE FOOD / SENSE IMPRESSION FOODS/ FOOD OF VOLITION/ CONSCIOUSNESS AS FOOD

  1. BE HAPPY – DO THE WORK ON SUFFERING – TASTE THE FRUITS OF PRACTICE

 

 

 

 

 

Inspiring Kids Through Literature: Sara Stem Saves the Bees

iprattis:

Empowering girls.

Originally posted on Green Living Ottawa:

Written by Denise Deby.

Sara Stem Saves the Bees book - D. Deby photo

A children’s book with a strong female character who faces an environmental challenge and takes charge with a science-based solution—that’s Sara Stem Saves the Bees.

Local author Julia Cieslukowska created the story of Sara Stem, a girl who realizes something is happening with the bees. Sara uses her knowledge and the resources around her to find and carry out a solution. The book, written for two- to six-year-olds, illustrates that individual actions can make a difference for the environment.

I had the chance to meet Julia Cieslukowska at her book launch on November 16. Julia, who’s also doing a masters’ degree in international affairs at Carleton, wanted to write a book to empower kids, particularly those who don’t see themselves often represented in literature. You can read more about Julia’s motivation for writing the book here.

Julia has set up a Kickstarter campaign where people can…

View original 82 more words

Callum Mor’s Awakening

 

Excerpt from Redemption                Order Book: http://www.ianprattis.com/Redemption.html

SKU-000921572_COVER.indd

                                              

Callum Mor walked directly to the edge of the fell. He did not look for the child but for the direction animals would take for shelter. He was very still. His keen sense of nature’s rhythms directed him. He searched for signs of sheep, tracing their paths to shelter, knowing Catriona would have followed them once she saw her danger. He plunged into snow drifts and struggled painfully out of them. He strained every sense so that he could hear and feel. He found several sheep huddled together in numerous places but no Catriona. He stood and wondered and thought deeply for a sign of the child. His eyes were drawn to a lie of the land beneath the snow that he instantly saw Catriona would take. He walked steadily to it, feeling drawn by his senses and then he found her track, in concert with the steps of a sheep. He found them together, the child and the ewe, in a shallow cave overhung with rock and turf.

She was blue with cold and the exposure to nature’s indifference. He knelt beside her and felt fear at her lack of recognition of him. He blocked out the snow with his strong body and willed life to the child. He offered up a prayer of gratitude for the finding of her and crooned softly to her in his own language, singing Gaelic lullabies to her. He must not lose her. The ewe stared balefully at Callum and stamped her foot. He spoke softly to the creature, knowing that he would need her if they were to live. His voice came softly through the layers of fear and cold that entrapped Catriona. “I told you I would be waiting for you little one.” She heard his gentle voice and stirred a little. He sat beside her, noting her dullness of response, slowly warming her hands in his, gently rubbing her thin knees that were cold, so cold. Then he dressed her in the additional clothes of hers that he carried in his pack. The snow was whipped into a whirling blizzard by a wind with no mercy. He knew they could not leave their shelter that night and they must live. His jacket and coat were wrapped round the huddled pitiful form of the child and he held her to him for warmth. The ewe was impatient to leave for fear of them but feared the blizzard more. Callum Mor talked to Catriona about what they would do. They must live. The ewe would give itself to them so that they could live. She must understand this. Catriona nodded while he explained to her that he was going to kill the sheep and then gut it so that she may be placed inside for warmth so he may have his jacket and coat and not freeze. She nodded with the wisdom of a seven year old, concerned only that the sheep would not suffer. “No, my Catriona, the ewe will not suffer.”

He spoke softly to the animal and touched it gently at the ears. The ewe ceased its trembling and relaxed and while he talked to her he took his fisherman’s knife and swiftly cut its jugular. While it died, his own numbed hands were restored to life by its warm blood. He gave thanks to the ewe for her life. After gutting the animal, he slit it open from the breast bone to the tail. He placed the child inside the dead carcass and she was insulated from the freezing tendrils of the blizzard. Mercifully she slept. A sleep of one who knows they are to be delivered. He sat with his jacket and coat loosely about him, creating a pocket of warm air that would resist the freezing will of the storm. He breathed slowly and deeply, using the least energy as he sat there.

His life went before his eyes and he smiled gently as he saw his childhood and island nurturing. He recalled his family at picnics and peats, the joy of dancing competitively with Moira and rabbiting with Donald. And his teacher, Rachel MacDougall, was there in his mind’s eye. He smiled in gratitude for the freedom she opened in his mind. He had received so much. His expression did not change as he thought of his father, Andrew, driven to madness by events he could not overcome. His heart welled with love for his father. He knew it was love that had driven his father to such lengths. He recalled the patient love of his mother Annie and the winter expeditions to the mail boat as their major weekly outing. He understood the warring factions in Brett MacVicker and felt grateful that this man, who killed his brother, should have shielded his darkness from him. His thoughts drifted and rested with his mother as she aged. He gave thanks for this child – fast asleep and warm within the insulation from the dead ewe. He offered respectful thanks to the ewe for enabling his little Catriona to live. He grieved at the wreckage he had turned himself into with drink, not for what he did to himself but for the pain he had inflicted by rebuke and indifference on people who only loved him. He dozed in the cold for only a moment. His mind kept him awake as he thought of the child Catriona and her mother and father. In the knowing of them they were as gifts to return him to himself. As morning light shafted through the darkness, he lost his self-contempt and saw compassion as the saving grace of both himself and his fellow man.

In that long night of freezing cold and driving blizzard his mind led him to these and many other paths and levels of his life. His suffering dissolved as his compassion grew. By morning he arrived at full self-knowledge – a state of enlightenment that he remained in for the rest of his days.

Return to the Cave: Excerpt from Trailing Sky Six Feathers

 

With the approach of a watershed day looming up in my diary I prepared by fasting and meditating deeply. There was actually no choice. I came down with stomach flu. Nothing that went into my mouth would stay down. Whatever bug had railroaded me, I actually welcomed it, as the fast was definitely on, accompanied by a gentle entry into prolonged meditation that took me into deep humility and gratitude to be in such a rare cradle of nature. But I was not tuning in at all to the two hundred and thirty one year cycle that my astrology friend Shera had been so emphatic about. No radical insights emerged, just jumbled rubbish dreams. Perhaps a clearing of junk was taking place due to Pluto crashing into Capricorn with its usual uprooting panache. The only thing I noticed was that my focus suddenly became enlarged, as though my mind had moved from a small TV screen to a huge HD model. A heightened lucidity that I attributed to being ill and light headed from the fasting. During the night I had a vivid dream vision and remembered every exact detail. It was accompanied by a narrator speaking to me, which I found odd.

I was standing on the lip of a cave high in a canyon in the Red Rock country of Central Arizona. An eagle flew up to me and alighted on my back. She wrapped her wings around me. The gentleness of the talons on my back and the embracing wings across my chest showed me that it was a female golden eagle. Her head was above mine, looking out from the cave. I could see through her eyes.

Then the narrator’s voice said, ‘This is the protection of the great eagle. Trailing Sky Six Feathers gives it to you.’

Then the mountain lion bounded into the cave and I heard a different voice in the dream, Trailing Sky speaking through the eagle.  ‘This is the heart and courage of the mountain lion that I now give to you.’

The deer came in, followed by owl and bear, all medicine gifts from Trailing Sky. The wily coyote trotted in, the gift of strategy and discernment.

The narrator spoke again, “This goes on throughout the night as you sleep. The gifts of Trailing Sky Six Feathers are given to you. Remember well, she is the greatest medicine woman the South West has ever known. Remember well, she is the direct expression of the highest universal plane. She had only one wish when you died in her arms two hundred and thirty one years ago and that was to find you. Receive the gifts she could not give to you before you died. They arose in her to fill the void of your passing from her life. She has been waiting a long time. You promised her the last time you were in the cave sanctuary that you would understand and not resist.”

“You now carry Trailing Sky’s medicine bundle. Your illness was sent by her, so you would prepare without resistance. She connects to holy beings in all traditions. Guidance from her is not trivial and cannot ever be taken lightly. Your responsibility is to honor this. Your insights into the reality of Trailing Sky will become clear”

When I awoke next morning, I recalled the dream vision in precise detail. Suddenly I had a searing vision of Trailing Sky holding me in her arms as I died in 1777 at the medicine wheel on the rock bluff above the weeping willow tree. I was harrowed to the bone by her grief. I felt her fierceness and anger at the other-worldly beings for failing to revive me. Then felt her anger release as she concentrated on my passage through time and space. I saw how she sat in the medicine wheel holding my dead body as she chanted our journey. I watched her hair turn grey, then white. Then saw her majestic communication to The People. I remember before death, looking up at her and smiling my love through my eyes to her and can still hear her say, “I will find you my husband, I will find you.”

http://youtu.be/FLd7_gxIlYw

And she did, two hundred and thirty one years later. I could not at first believe this or fully accept it. Yet the eagle wings around me were her arms, the eagle head above mine her vision and fierceness, the talons digging gently into my back to ensure that I understood. In that instant I totally surrendered to this relentless Muse that never gave up on me. I gave up all resistance, realizing that Trailing Sky had kept her word from 1777, “I will find you.” Even now, as I write this memory down, I cannot stop the tears. I am both here, with the dream vision and there, dying in the medicine wheel, as she vows to find me. All my reservations and doubts become as nothing.

Front Cover Trailing Sky Six Feathers

Order Book: http://www.ianprattis.com/TrailingSky.html

Walking with Sand Hill Cranes at Fish Lake

Walking with Sand Hill Cranes at Fish Lake

I offered 10 days of mindfulness practice in November to the Fish Lake Sangha in Orlando, Florida. Imagine my surprise to be greeted at the lakeside by Sand Hill Cranes who honked every time I started a dharma talk! They are wonderful creatures, totally unafraid of the two legged walking with them and taking photographs.

DSCN2178

On the first Saturday we greeted the morning and the cranes with Zen Practice. Zen Practice has a very practical nature – Chop Wood, Carry Water – and being aware of precisely doing so. The cultural origins from China and Japan do not necessarily travel well to western countries, so I have adapted the form somewhat and kept the essence. We listen to the bell calling us back to our true selves for guidance, listen to our breathing and through the discipline of this practice we settle into a deep calm and harmony with everything around and within is.  The simplicity and elegance of silence. The cadence of sitting with breathing in and out, the flow of walking with breath – in and out, the joy of stretching with breath in and out. Then repeat the entire cadence three times. The silence deepens as we settle gently into the quality of our mind. Nowhere to Go, Nothing to Do.

DSCN2114

The first dharma talk to the community was on the topic of Righteous Anger. All such conflicts require the active and intentional cultivation of Zen Mind to navigate the pitfalls of hatred, distraction, violence, past wounds. We deal with the fundamental pollution – in the human mind. Making the world better requires that we make our minds better. The task is to make our thinking better. Navigate more skillfully. The Four Brahmaviharas meditation is a good tool, all children’s songs an effective antidote. Foundation Practices and the Two Arrows teaching.

A recent protest in Antigonish, N.S. supporting Gaza produced yelling hate, violence and anger. There was a woman standing apart with a list in one hand and purple chalk in her other hand. She was carefully and quietly writing down on the edge of the sidewalk of Main Street, Antigonish, N.S. the names and ages of every child killed in the Gaza bombardment.  My question to you is: Which protest do you think had the most impact?

DSCN2196

During the week there was a session of qi-gong with Carolyn and a Transmission Ceremony of the Five Mindfulness Trainings – a step into living the Bodhisattva Path.  When I invited the 5 aspirants to come to the front and offer bows to the three gems, they spontaneously held hands and bowed together. Very sweet, a great omen for what they will bring to the sangha.

Carolyn and Ian at the transmission ceremony

The day of mindfulness on the final Sunday began with silent meditation and the 2nd dharma talk, Collapse and the Bodhisattva. I spoke about the breakdown of Industrial Growth Society. Staring into the abyss. No limits, no maturity. From Columbine to Newton, CT – the killers are pre-adult males with mental illness – the immaturity of the Carry Movement – NOT defense of 2nd amendment rights. The solution – STOP; RE-ASSESS; ENTER THE BODHISATTVA – NOW with interbeing and non-discrimination.  Shantideva’s unwavering encouragement from the 8th century. Buddha Mind. “Ego” is very disappointed with Awakening – so let us all disappoint the ego. I finished the talk by reading the Hopi Prophecy of 2008.

DSCN2226

Carolyn led everyone through a qi-gong session prior to a Silent Lunch ushered in with the Five Contemplations before eating. The next edible item was chocolate meditation which followed walking meditation outside by the lakeside.  Carolyn spoke about the causes and conditions that brought the wrapped chocolate to each hand and the vast population it had touched before landing. The dharma discussion was on a very weighty topic – How can Mindfulness be addressed to the crisis with ISIL? This was very challenging. The final session was a Q & A before the closing ceremony and good byes.

During the days prior to leaving for home, Carolyn and I cycled ten miles each day to the Café de Paris, owned by a French family. It was interesting that our ten mile bike ride was past a series of gated communities. An omen of the times we are in, but do not have to be part of.

 

More Dead Children

The media and government in Canada have largely covered up the factors of mental health and drug addiction in the recent shooting of a soldier on Parliament Hill. The cover up gives a false sense of security to our mental health services, which are woefully inadequate. This same lack is shared by our neighbor to the south, which requires that I return to the very serious reality of more dead children.

The shock waves from the 1999 high school shootings in Littleton, Colorado and the 2012 massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, CT, swept across North America and touched every community.  As those shock waves recede, the greatest danger is public distance from taking responsibility for the toxic environments we have created.  The specter of children shooting children in high schools shocked me very deeply.  After several days of silence and meditation after Columbine, I wrote a short essay titled “Yes It Can Happen Here” that looked deeply into the causes of the shootings.

I wrote about the ready availability of guns and drugs.  When this combines with lack of time spent with young people by parents, teachers and community leaders, then the consumption of violence by our children through the media, video games and the internet can lead to the deadly carnage of high school shoot-outs.  Many of our children have become exiles.  They experience “not love”, “not connected.”  Nobody hears their voice, and we have largely forgotten how to listen to them.  Many children have found a third parent in cyberspace where violence, hatred and killing are readily available without any sense of consequence or responsibility.  In the absence of clear ethical guidelines from parents and society, young people are creating their own identity from the very worst that cyberspace and Hollywood have to offer.   In the absence of a stable identity, there is a drive to achieve instant fame through acts of notoriety and violence.

Twenty years later after the massacre in Newton, CT, I wrote about Dead Children. Twenty children gunned down at an elementary school. Children killed as collateral damage in Gaza, Israel, Syria, Congo, Afghanistan and in world-wide violence. We are all grieving parents to the world. The question we all face is – What Now? In the face of grief we must feel it deeply, be hurt by it, taking time to feel the pain of the tragedy. Then come through, determined to make a difference. STOP: REASSESS: ENTER THE BODHISATTVA.

Stopping requires calling in the support of wise friends, counselors and community so we can begin to see clearly and give ourselves the chance to find ourselves. Stillness is needed, not social media distraction – for we now have to look for a new direction and leadership. To reassess the 21st century, we must look deeply at the factors involved in the shootings. We will see a complex, intertwined tapestry with the easy availability of guns and drugs, compounded by societal tolerance of violence through the worst that cyberspace and Hollywood have to offer. Plus the very serious common denominator shared by the killers stretching back to the Columbine massacre. This is the factor of mental illness in predominantly pre-adult white males who are caught in an identity trap that they escape from through violence and murder. This is their five minutes of fame that enables them to be remembered. They occupy a toxic landscape of “not love”, “not connected.” And this is what requires the attention of our mental health system and our mindfulness.  How do we begin?

DCF 1.0

It is time for the Bodhisattva to enter the 21st century as a paradigm and archetype for individual and collective action. This enables us to deeply transform ourselves and our civilization. We nurture this paradigm by cultivating two aspects that lie dormant within us. The first aspect is Interbeing – knowing that we interconnect with everything – the earth, oceans, forests and mountains, all species and most of all – with all people. Interbeing creates harmony and unity and destroys the ego. The second aspect is Non-discrimination, which carries the energy of compassion, and this combination threatens selfishness. Taken together – these buried aspects, once they manifest from within us, open pathways and bridges to build a better world.

How do we do this? We cultivate the energies of transformation – Mindfulness, Concentration and Insight. Always – at every opportunity we bring Interbeing and Non-Discrimination to the forefront of our daily lives. In this way we shape the future of the 21st century as we begin to live differently – here and now. We are not intimidated by present crises. We are certainly shocked and hurt by such circumstances but are in fact much stronger than we think. Enter the Bodhisattva is the guiding paradigm for our lives. I allude to Bruce Lee’s classic – Enter the Dragon – which brings the fierceness of the warrior to the fore and the determination of a saint to overcome tragedy and set a new course. It takes practice, skillfulness and creative vision – but we are equal to the task.

My Manifesto: My body and mind are not individual entities that I can do anything I like with – such as filling them with drugs, alcohol, hateful attitudes and violence.  My body and mind exist for future generations therefore I must be aware of what I put into them.  We must also exercise care and responsibility over what we allow into the minds and bodies of our children, to prevent murders from happening in our schools.  Furthermore, this care and responsibility is to prevent young people turning their consumption of violence in on themselves – in the form of suicide.  We must take steps to fill the ethical void, give our children the benefits of our full presence and learn to listen deeply to them so that positive steps are taken to eliminate murders taking place in our schools.

Peace